MN Farmers Welcome Hearing of Groundbreaking Soil Health Legislation

Bill to Offer Incentives to Reach ‘100% Soil Healthy Farming’ in MN by 2040

SAINT PAUL, Minn. — Calling it a “win-win” for agriculture and the environment, farmer-members of the Land Stewardship Project (LSP) applauded today’s scheduled hearing of the “100% Soil Healthy Farming Bill” in the Minnesota House Agriculture and Food Finance and Policy Committee. The bill, House File 701 and Senate File 1113, is authored by Representative Todd Lippert (DFL-Northfield) in the Minnesota House and Senator Kent Eken (DFL-Twin Valley) in the Minnesota Senate.

The legislation sets statewide goals and creates a program to provide farmers with accessible grants and direct payments for the adoption of practices that build resiliency on the landscape by, among other things, sequestering carbon long-term and contributing to mitigating climate change.

“This legislation will help farmers diversify their crop rotations and cover crop plantings, which will keep our soil protected in the winter,” said LSP member and crop farmer Luke Peterson of A Frame Farms, in Dawson Minn. “These practices create ecosystem services that promote habitat for wildlife and improve our water quality, while retaining nutrients, moisture and organic matter in our soil. Caring for the land today will ensure its resiliency for the next generation.”

Bridging the gap to ensure that managed rotational grazing, cover cropping, perennial cropping and no-till systems are profitable in the near term removes financial barriers that often limit farmers’ ability to put in place creative measures on the land. Under the proposal, the Board of Water and Soil Resources would administer the grants and provide technical assistance to Soil and Water Conservation Districts around the state. The bill would provide up to five years of direct payments and would prioritize “socially disadvantaged” farmers — Black, brown, and Indigenous farmers, along with women and farmers with disabilities — as well as small and mid-sized farmers.

The goal of the legislation is to have 50% and 100% of Minnesota farmers implementing soil healthy practices by 2030 and 2035, respectively. In addition, by 2040 100% of the state’s grazable and tillable acres would be farmed utilizing soil healthy practices. Experience in states like Indiana, Illinois and Iowa has shown that public cost-share and grant programs can play a significant role in increasing the number of agricultural acres being managed utilizing soil healthy practices.

“To improve Minnesota farms for future generations, it is important we work together to support soil healthy farming methods which keep living roots in the ground, build healthy soils and capture excess carbon,” said LSP member and crop farmer Martin Larsen of Byron, Minn. “Financial support helps foster change and increase adoption of soil-healthy farming practices for the greater good of the air, water, pollinators, land, people and rural communities.”

If it passes through the House Agriculture and Food Finance and Policy Committee today, HF 701 will move on to the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee and the Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy Committee.